Austin TSA agents relying on donated food, organizing carpools


AUSTIN (KXAN) — Lead Transportation Security Officer Jonathan Arconti walked out of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport with a cart full of donated food beside him. 

The water, canned goods, and dried fruit were donated to Transportation Security Administration agents by the Central Texas Food Bank. 

It’s the only compensation he’s taking with him after working another shift without pay. 

“People are getting really agitated, frustrated, really wondering what they’re going to do,” Arconti said. “The biggest concern for many is coming at the end of the month when everybody has their mortgage payment, or their rent payment, and how they’re going to be able to make that.”

The husband and father of three is the primary provider for his Round Rock family.

Since the government shutdown started on December 22, Acornti already had to call out sick once. At the time he had nearly drained his bank account and was close to maxing out his credit cards. 

He spends the day updating his resume and applying for jobs. 

“I called them up and said, ‘hey, I can’t come in because I’ve got 25 bucks to my name, and I don’t know when I’m going to receive any money,'” he said. 

He’s also joined a carpool with about a half dozen other TSA agents, helping save gas on the trip to and from Williamson County.

The TSA said on Tuesday 6.1% of the workforce called out sick, compared to 3.7% on the same day last year. However, at ABIA security wait times remain low. The max Tuesday was just nine minutes.

“To my surprise, there was nothing going on, there was not much of a line,” said traveler Dan Smith.

While Austin TSA agents said they’ve been overwhelmed by the support they’re receiving from the community, in some cases, it’s causing frustration too. 

Many people are coming to the airport with gift cards and cash donations, yet agents are unable to accept those gifts. Instead, those gift cards are being placed into lost and found. 

However, food donations are allowed.

In a show of support, concessionaire Delaware North plans to offer free BBQ for agents from Salt Lick later this week.

“In appreciation of our TSA employees who work here at the airport,” said Bryce Dubee, an airport spokesperson.

While Arconti appreciates the gesture, what he really wants is an end to the political fight. 

“These are our elected officials and they’re supposed to be representing us,” he said. “When you see them, who are getting paid mind you, taking a hard stance and using us as little pawn pieces, in their game, it really does get frustrating.”

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